I haven’t always been a confident person, and I most definitely have days where my usual confident structure breaks away from itself. Quite often I try and analyse what confidence truly is, and why this complex demeanour fluctuates.
Confidence is technically described as:
“A feeling that is due to self-belief and acknowledgement of one’s own abilities or qualities.”
This word acknowledgement, at the heart of this definition, is what interests me the most about confidence. Throughout a discussion with a good friend (Instagram: simon_walsh14), an extremely interesting point was unearthed. I would like to share and discuss this. Confidence, as much as it is within oneself, is due to, and in majority because of, external stimuli. Therefore this acknowledgement may not necessarily be your own, but someone else’s acknowledging of your talents or exterior that creates confidence within yourself.
All individuals, admittedly or not, appreciate compliments as these are the words that assure us most; assure us that we are strong enough, good enough, beautiful or handsome enough; these structured words allow us to keep moving, and delay us from having time to descend and self-doubt.
After this new aspect of confidence was introduced to my already over-analysing brain, I was bemused at how Simon’s external stimuli opinion resonated within me. I always thought it was about self-belief and that you just have to accept and believe in who you are – this is definitely a part, but how can we do this without assurance from someone else. If we are the only ones convincing ourselves we’re strong enough, soon enough we say it to ourselves even when we are vulnerably weak. This self-belief and confidence then has the opportunity to radically weaken to self-doubt, self-doubt to anxiety.
Explaining how confidence turns to self-doubt and anxiety is hard to explain in precise detail. I have, however, experienced this feeling, so the easiest way to put this to word is to use an example from my life. Try and picture my words in the form of a graph on a page. The last 500 days of my life going horizontal, and the three notches going upward on the y-axis being anxiety, self-doubt and confidence. As my London dream began with saving and planning; I began midway somewhere near the level of self-doubt:
‘Will I be able to save in time?’, ‘Will I really go through with this?’
As the line progresses horizontally it also slowly begins to peak vertically towards the level of confidence; this came with the physical growth of sterling but also the kind words of commendation and encouragement from family and friends. These external stimuli pushed the line to level out for several months. These months were easy, I was so confident within myself and had sureness in my plan to move alone. Then the news of my departure became old amongst my family and friends, it became accepted that I was leaving, so discussions lessened. Negative and doubtful comments stopped my ability to move away from this doubt. Small, unintentional things people said – people doubting the extent of my planning or the level of accumulated savings – all made that line waver around self-doubt. The lack of encouragement and assuredness then caused my brain to self-doubt: forcing the line to descend. I was too ashamed to discuss these feelings with family and friends because I wanted to still appear like the brave being everyone described me as. This absence of conversation then allowed my brain to plummet towards anxiety. I began to have this gut-wrenching fear of failing. As the timeline sped on, the time until I was to leave New Zealand diminished in front of me. Conversations increased with the hype of 18-year old Paige leaving friends and family for a foreign place. This resulted in a vertically increased line levelled midway between self-doubt and confidence. I had assurance in my abilities but I still lacked complete confidence of success. From those days, to now, my line of confidence has continued to fluctuate.
My line will continue on in that fluctuating motion. So will yours. Such is life.
Reading this blog you may think I’m trying to say that confidence is solely reliant on external compliments, but it most definitely is not. This external stimuli fact is purely a minuscule part of what makes our brains tick. Confidence comes from a range of things – from validation, self-acceptance for who we are, remaining mindful, grounded and humble, amid others. These are the things that increase or decrease our levels of confidence.
So think before you speak, you’re making a bigger impact than you might think.